Patriot League (24-7, 13-1)
Big Wins: 11/22 at Jacksonville (75-67), 12/29 at Manhattan (60-48), 3/13 Holy Cross (73-57)
Bad Losses: 12/1 Mt. St. Mary’s (52-57), 12/17 at George Washington (50-63), 1/24 at Holy Cross (62-71)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2008, First Round loss to Tennessee
Coach: Jeff Jones (6-6 in 6 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
This is an extremely experienced team and Coach Jeff Jones will likely start five seniors in the tournament. And it all starts with Derrick Mercer. The senior point guard will use his speed to get to the basket and finish or find his teammates. He dishes out over four assists per game and, while the turnover numbers are a little high, he does a good job knocking down the jumpers and running the team.
A majority of Mercer’s assists will go to Garrison Carr. Carr knocks down 3.5 three balls per game and hits nearly 39 percent of his attempts. Those numbers are down from last year, but when the Eagles need a big shot, you can be certain it will be Carr taking it. Carr shoots very well from the charity stripe and if American finds themselves in a close game down the stretch, American will want the ball in his hands. With Mercer and Carr leading the way, the Eagles can pull off a surprise in March, but they will need help from other players on the team.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Generally speaking a team in the Patriot League will be outmatched in March. The Eagles just do not have the athletes to compete with most teams in larger conferences. The three-point shot will give them a chance to stay in the game, but if AU gets behind, their style of play does not lend itself to mustering up a comeback. This is not a team that gets easy buckets off turnovers or feels comfortable pushing the tempo and running the floor. Thus, if Carr is not hitting the long balls, there is not much else the Eagles can do to quickly put points on the board.
Who To Watch:
American will get points from Carr and Mercer, but the team will need the forwards to step up and score some buckets. Brian Gilmore has been the most consistent option so far this season. The 6-8 forward is averaging 12.4 points per game and a team high 5.4 rebounds. His ability to hit the outside shot adds another dynamic to the American offense and that makes this group quite difficult to defend. Jordan Nichols, Stephen Lumpkins and Bryce Simon will see some playing time at the forward spots, but none of them are major scoring threats. Nick Hendra is the super sub in the backcourt, but is averaging just 6.5 points per game. He has had a few big games this year and he will need another one, and maybe a few tiny sandwiches, if American hopes to pull of an upset.
Derrick Mercer, Senior, Guard, 11.5 ppg, 4.4 apg, 4.3 rpg
Garrison Carr, Senior, Guard, 17.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg
Frank Borden, Senior, Guard, 3.5 ppg, 1.4 apg
Jordan Nichols, Senior, Forward, 5.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Brian Gilmore, Senior, Forward, 12.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Nick Hendra, Sophomore, Guard, 6.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Stephen Lumpkins, Freshman, Forward, 3.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg
Bryce Simon, Senior, Forward, 2.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 64.2 (254th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 58.5 (9, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.5 (56, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 39.7 (28, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.1 (88, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.4 (52, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 65.2 (266, 8)
Rebound Margin: 3.2 (65, 2)
Assists Per Game: 13.1 (158, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2 (115, 1)
Following the Bracket announcement, more team info will be added, including final RPI, final team statistical rankings, Joel's prediction, and more!